railroads crossingIt happens — sometimes, despite the best efforts of everyone involved, a project ends up going off the rails and spiraling out of control.

The first thing to do is avoid panicking. Most projects that have veered off course can be salvaged — not always in the form you originally intended for them, but scrapping the project entirely is always the last resort. It’s better to get something than nothing, so let’s walk through the process of recovering things.

Determining the actual problem 

Most failing projects fall into one of the following categories:
  • The scope, schedule, or the budget of the project will not be met (outside of the normal allowance given)
  • The ultimate customers or users will not be satisfied
  • The final quality of the project will be below acceptable levels 
Which category the project falls into determines the method you should use to recover it.

Fixing the Scope/Scale/Budget

If the problem is with the scope of the project, narrow (or, in rare cases, expand) it as needed. This is fundamentally like starting an entirely new project — you’ll need to create a new plan for your development, make new decisions on who will work on the project, and come up with a new budget.

If the issue is with the scale of the project, do the same thing.
If your difficulty lies with the budget, see what you can do to get more money. This could involve talking with executives or a governing board, searching for outside investors, or modifying the budget yourself.

At this point, you may come to the conclusion that the project just isn’t salvageable. If the problem is time, it’s best to pull the plug and redirect the project’s resources into something else. If the issue is money, consider shelving the project (if you can) and waiting until you have the budget to finish it properly. Otherwise, much like time, this is the point at which you should terminate things. 

Improving Customer Satisfaction and/or Quality

The best way to solve a problem with customer satisfaction or product quality is a redesign of the final product or service — thoroughly review what the problems are, then adjust your project to get it back on track. This is often expensive — the changes may be major, and this late in the development cycle, they’re not so easy to do — so you may need to seek an increased budget.


If all else has failed you, you should consider outsourcing your project to a firm that specializes in whatever you need.
For example, our team here at Ethany can quickly assemble a team of programmers capable of developing almost anything your company might need. This means you can hit the ground running with a team of professionals, cutting out the hiring and training time you’d need to expand your in-house resources. A quick consultation can tell you if it’s possible to save your project within the time and budget left to you, so contact us for the help your project needs.
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